Stacey Loren chats to Daniel Pearson.
Which came first, wanting to be a musician, or wanting to run a label?
I've been playing guitar and writing songs since I was 15, so the musician part came first! I spent over ten years in different bands, gigged all over the UK and put out some singles on indie labels before I started doing solo stuff and realised that I could take the DIY route. The label is an outlet for my music rather than an independent venture - I'd love to be able to put out some music by other people, but with writing and recording along with all the PR and organisational aspects it's been too hard to find the time so far.
What do you think are the benefits of being 'self-sufficient' when it comes to being a musician? Any downsides?
Well there's no-one telling you how you should sound or making decisions that affect how people connect with your music, and they can be big problems when you're signed to a label. For all the music I've released so far, I've had control over production, distribution, artwork... everything. As someone who has strong ideas about what they want to do, it's great. I treat it like every serious musician should - it's your own business and one you should be aiming to build if you're committed to it. Of course, it would be nice to have a massive marketing budget, but in the end you're spending someone else's money and they want it back at some point. I get other people involved for things that I'm not experienced in, like photographers and artists so that I can use their expertise and incorporate their ideas. That takes care of one of the biggest downsides - the feeling that you're isolated and have a mountain of things to do that take you away from making music. It can be incredibly tiring to spend your nights after a long day at work sending out countless emails to bloggers, journalists and radio producers, but so long as you keep getting little breakthroughs it's worth it.
You describe your music as being drawn from diverse influences - what are those influences?
I've always loved Springsteen - even when it wasn't cool to say you were influenced by him, I was a nerdy superfan. He's the gold standard for me. I've always been more into music from the USA. Growing up in Hull there wasn't much of a local musical identity to connect with and American bands just seemed to offer an escape from that. So I got really into The Lemonheads, REM and Nirvana when I was a teenager. I've developed an obsession with The National over the last few years, and I always have time for Ryan Adams - I think he's a brilliant songwriter. But it's not just indie rock - I'm into great lyricists and there's plenty of them in hip-hop. Beck is another big influence and I admire the way he jumps into different genres. I also love a lot of film composers - their use of strings and the sense of scale and space they can convey in their music.
"I think with the way the music industry is going there'll be a few more independent artists/businessmen balancing music careers and full time jobs in years to come." What makes you think this?
The major label model isn't dead - but it is shrinking, probably to a point where the idea of a band getting signed and becoming millionaires is a thing of the past. The established acts, the cash cows like Take That and Michael Buble will keep on selling but major label music will get safer and even more predictable.
I think that the new bands that you read about on a blog or in the NME will self-release their records and have day jobs - otherwise how can they support themselves long term, or pay for studio time? And because there's less money in record sales and well paid gigs are so scarce, they'll have to hold on to those jobs for longer. It's not necessarily a bad thing. It'll force musicians to stop chasing bandwagons, find their own niche and build their audience. The 'rock n' roll, drugs and girls' myth needs to be debunked - it's gotten boring and it's no more realistic than the dreams peddled by The X-Factor.
What did you make of how your first album was received? What impact did that have on the writing/creating of your second one?
All I wanted from 'Satellites' was to maybe make back some of the money I spend making it and have people hear the songs. It got some good reviews, but it wasn't like I was getting five stars in Q or top score on Pitchfork or anything - so it was really cool for people to buy it and support what I do to the point where I felt like I could keep doing it long term. It wasn't successful enough for me to focus on music full time, but I wasn't expecting it to be. It's a very alt. country, pop-sounding album so I didn't want to repeat that - I'd hate to make the same record twice. So I've tried to bring in some loops, rely less on drums and acoustics and more on keyboards and electric guitars, to be less obvious with the melodies and the structures...but I think the end product still sounds like me. Hopefully it'll be a progression, and I can keep on trying new things.
How would you describe yourself as a live performer? Are gigs still important?
I love the recording/production process, and playing live is totally different and gives you the connection that you were hoping for when you wrote the song. I don't play gigs as much as I'd like to. It's partly because I have a pretty demanding day job that takes up my time, partly because I'm so active on the business side of music and partly because I feel like I've paid my dues. I spent years playing in bars, supporting touring bands, gigging wherever and whenever I could. I'm more selective now, and prefer live sets to be something that people can't hear two weeks later in another pub down the road. As a solo act too, you've got to fit things around a backing band - even more with new songs that are less acoustic and in need of bigger live sound. I know lots of brilliant musicians who've played with me before, but again with adult demands on their time it gets harder to organise. I haven't played live for almost a year - but I've got a few thing lined up over the next couple of months that should be awesome, and I'm looking forward to playing the new songs for people.